Whether he is composing for members of Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, orchestrating the film American Psycho, or creating works for the children’s ensemble Tales and Scales, Randy’s music occupies a terrain both familiar and yet fresh. His preferred medium seems to be the combination of sampled sound and live performers.
Listening to Woolf’s music is akin to looking at a familiar photograph in which each pixel has been magnified. You recognize the sources, but your attention is deepened and blurred through the detailed treatments. He likes to take vernacular styles – anything from hip-hop to country western – and mix them into metrically complex textures, feeding on their inherent energy while simultaneously commenting on that energy and its cultural context.
Imagine Steve Reich focusing his lens on the fine details in life instead of the grand scheme and you have a glimpse of one important facet of Woolf’s world.
Ransom Wilson led our orchestra in a performance of Woolf’sHee Haw on Saturday night. Scored for chamber orchestra, two singers and sampler, Hee Haw subjects square dance music to sudden shifts in tone and perspective, from the caller’s exhortations to an extended passage of twisted fiddling. It’s funny and invigorating. I couldn’t help thinking, halfway through, that the shifting perspectives and angles ended up producing a cubist — rather than a square — dance.